Lukashenko to stand for re-election as president in 2025

Lukashenko to stand for re-election as president in 2025
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko announced he will stand for re-election again in 2025 - maybe.., / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews February 29, 2024

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, announced he will stand for re-election again in 2025, state media reported on February 25.

In the aftermath of Belarus's tightly controlled parliamentary elections that saw four state-controlled political parties elected on February 25, Lukashenko made conflicting statements regarding his electoral aspirations. While affirming his candidacy to a state news agency correspondent, he later hinted at the possibility of alternative outcomes in the elections next year.

Renowned for his confusing declarations, Lukashenko has previously vacillated on his electoral plans, oscillating between readiness to run and openness to relinquishing power based on popular sentiment.

Lukashenko has promised to both reform the constitution and stand down as president in the past, but he has dithered on both counts.

The 2025 elections would mark Lukashenko's seventh presidential bid, following widespread protests in 2020 against alleged electoral fraud, which were met with severe state repression. The next presidential race is expected to be a tightly controlled affair as the authorities seek to prevent any repetition of the 2020 mass protests.

The fiercely fought August 2020 elections were disputed by several independent candidates, including ex-banker Viktor Babariko and popular blogger Sergei Tikhanovsky, the husband of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who also ran against Lukashenko in lieu of her husband and is widely believed to have won by a landslide.

Both men were arrested on trumped up charges before the elections were held and remain in jail today. Following the vote, which saw Lukashenko returned to office, mass protests broke out the same day that went on for months before finally fading away as winter set in.

Over the following two years, Lukashenko has cranked up his repression and crushed what little of the opposition was left.

The recent parliamentary elections, condemned by Western nations and dismissed as a sham by opposition groups, further consolidate Lukashenko's grip on power. Amidst a climate of intimidation and restricted freedoms, the electoral process faced criticism for its lack of transparency and fair competition.

Lukashenko’s confusing comments on his candidature may be linked to the creation of the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly due in late April. The formerly purely consultative body has been given real powers including the ability to appoint electoral commission members, declare war and to impeach the president. It is to be made up of 1,200 delegates, including members of parliament, local councils, officials, pro-government activists and others.

Russia has been pushing Lukashenko to reduce his powers and reform the constitution as Moscow regards him as a loose cannon. According to one scenario suggested by analysts, Lukashenko will meet these demands by nominally stepping down as president, reducing the powers of that office, and taking up the chairmanship of the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly from where he will still be able to control the country.

If he leaves office then Natalya Kochanova, a staunch ally of the current president and head of the parliament’s upper chamber, is seen as a potential successor — Lukashenko has called her an “almost a ready-made president," reports Politico. Kochanova is also on good terms with Putin.

In parallel with Lukashenko's announcement, Western powers have imposed fresh sanctions on Belarus, targeting key entities and individuals complicit in supporting Russia's aggression in Ukraine. The sanctions coincide with the second anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, highlighting Lukashenko's alignment with Russian President Vladimir Putin's agenda.

The coordinated sanctions, enacted by the European Union, United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, underscore international condemnation of Belarus's role in facilitating Russia's military operations. The measures target entities involved in defence and logistics support, alongside individuals implicated in human rights abuses and collaboration with Russian forces.